Saturday, 8 December 2012

Patch of the day - Whiteford, Alastair Irvine, written by Ryan Irvine

To start with I better explain that I am writing this on behalf of my dad who has birded the area since long before I was born in 1979.  The patch is set in rural Aberdeenshire and has a nice mix of woodlands, farmland and the River Urie gives it some fresh water, along with a few ponds, all with Bennachie over looking it.

As I was growing up my dad used to tell me about the birds he watched in the 70’s, and how he watched green woodpeckers at their nest, a rare bird now not seen in the area since the mid 90’s and I never came close to seeing a nest! During my childhood I remember watching long-eared owls breeding for about 10 years every summer and it was this that really got me in to birding. During the 90’s we had a bit of a purple patch with owls, with barn owls, LEO’s and tawny owls all breeding but unfortunately only tawnys remain now. In the early 90’s we also found our first buzzard for the patch, amazing to believe now a days as there are probably 5 or 6 pairs in the small area.The patch used to have regular geese flocks every winter where we were lucky enough to pick out a snow goose once and on the same day found our one and only jack snipe for the patch. I remember the day well, January 1st 1995! The geese have stopped using the patch now and winter is a lot quieter although there is the usual wintering finch flocks, the odd waxwing etc.

Common Buzzard - a common sight now but very rare 25 years ago

So to the present and the patch may have lost its owls, its geese, its green woodpeckers but has also gained with tree sparrows now very common, little grebes bred for the first time this year, goldeneye now wintering on the river most years and the new ponds have attracted shovelers, green sandpipers and tufted duck to the patch.  
What about rarities, well as you can imagine they are, well rare here! Apart from the aforementioned snow goose, we have had a few wheatears and a whinchat on passage but generally we don’t get anything extraordinary here, or at least I don’t. May 25th 2012 and in the centre of the patch my dad finds a male red-backed shrike, a true patch mega and one I wish I could have seen! In fact I would more likely have twitched that than a British first elsewhere (well, maybe not but it would have been a tough decision!).

As well as birds, red squirrels, roe deer, foxes, badgers and otters can be found and its pretty good for butterflies, in fact a Camberwell beauty was in my parent’s garden back in 2005!

I think this is the beauty of patch birding, even though it may look like nothing we have notched up over 120 species and seen the area and its birdlife change over the years.

Goldeneye, a recent addition to the pacth list

Ryan Irvine


1 comment:

  1. Lovely write up Ryan. Its really good to see a true 'local' patch rather that one selected for its rarity potential. A beautiful area, long may you and your dad enjoy it.